When mobile location service Foursquare released its API, Lenny Rachitsky wondered what he could do with all of that data. Foursquare is designed to tell people where you are at any given time. But what if you could be in two places at once?
To achieve “anywhere at any time” Rachitsky landed on the idea of an app called Localmind, which is being featured by Apple in the Appstore today.
Localmind lets you get real-time information about a specific location. When a Localmind user checks-in to a location on Foursquare, they show up as available to answer queries about the place. For instance, if you are home and want to know if a bar is hoppin’, you can ping a person at the bar and ask if it’s a good time to get off the couch.
“The vision we have is the concept of omniscience as a service. I want to know everything about what’s happening now,” Rachitsky, Localmind’s co-founder and chief executive, told VentureBeat in an interview.
In the new version of Localmind, people can answer questions with photos as opposed to only text. How crowded is the stadium? Take a photo to accompany, “The bleachers are packed!” Even though a picture is worth 1,000 words, if you need more information, there is an existing chat function to handle conversations.
Another addition is the ability to respond to old queries. In previous Localmind versions, answers submitted after a certain time period were “swept under the rug,” or discarded. But users wanted the option to give their two cents after the fact. For instance, if you saw a question about your all-time favorite restaurant from the night before, and the answers didn’t hit the mark, you can reply and give the asker knowledge for next time.
The last new feature answers the question, “Who is replying to me?” Prior to this update, answers were left anonymously, with no option to reveal yourself other than to message, “Oh hey, it’s Sally!” Now, you can opt to display your name along with an answer, and in the process take a little credit for your local knowledge.
This last feature will come in handy when Localmind rolls out its next update: routing answer-seekers to “experts” of a certain location. Similar to Foursquare’s mayor, users will be ranked on their knowledge of a location based on their level of engagement there. If your rank is high for a specific spot, questions will automatically be directed to you.
Currently, Localmind users can gain “karma” based on each interaction and “level-up” as karma is accumulated.
Rachitsky has seen other use cases for his app, however. When the tsunami in Japan hit last March, people used their Localmind to ask Japanese users about their situation.
“There’s no other way to just find a [random] guy in Japan and contact them,” said Rachitsky.
He spoke to the real-time nature of Localmind, and how easy it was to contact someone in a disaster. In other cases you would have to identify a person, their contact information and hope that they had electricity to receive the query. Mobile changes that, allowing users to contact others “over the air”.
“I think we’re the most successful, ambitious app that sits on top of the Foursquare platform,” he said.
Localmind is based in San Francisco. The company recently closed a $600,000 round of seed funding led by Granite Ventures, iNovia Capital, Real Ventures, and angel investors Ian Sobieski, Peter Bordes, Ty Danco, Zach Aarons, and Ash Jhaveri. Localmind has only three employees and is looking to hire.